At BMI Healthcare, we use haemato-oncology to diagnose and treat all blood cancers, including lymphoma. Treatment in most cases is chemotherapy, sometimes in combination with radiotherapy.
Benefits of haemato-oncology
Treatment for most people with lymphoma helps to alleviate symptoms, improves survival and, for some people, can successfully treat the disease.
Once our doctors know the stage of your lymphoma, they can plan your treatment. The treatment type you will be offered depends upon a few factors, which includes your general health and the specific type (Hodgkins or non-Hodgkins) and stage of your lymphoma.
The aim of Hodgkins lymphoma treatment is to cure the disease while minimising damage to your future health. It should also be said that many people with Hodgkins lymphoma can achieve long-term remission.
Early-stage Hodgkins lymphoma is often treated with a short course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy to the enlarged lymph nodes.
Advanced-stage Hodgkins lymphoma is treated with a longer course of chemotherapy, and some people also have radiotherapy.
High-grade non-Hodgkins lymphoma
Just like Hodgkins lymphoma, treatment aims to cure the disease, and many people with high-grade non-Hodgkins lymphoma can achieve long-term remission.
High-grade non-Hodgkins lymphoma is almost always treated with intravenous combination chemotherapy. Combination chemotherapy simply means that several different drugs are used, and that combination will depend upon your individual situation.
Early-stage low-grade non-Hodgkins lymphoma
Early-stage low-grade non-Hodgkins lymphoma is referred to as stage 1 or sometimes stage 2 lymphoma – this means is that the lymphoma is affecting only one or two groups of lymph nodes in a limited area of the body, and there’s no reason to suspect that other organs are involved.
When first diagnosed, fewer than 20% of people with low-grade lymphoma have stage 1 or 2 lymphoma disease, which is often treated and sometimes cured by giving radiotherapy to the enlarged lymph nodes.
Advanced-stage low-grade non-Hodgkins lymphoma
Most people who have low-grade non-Hodgkins lymphoma have advanced-stage disease by the time they first see their doctors.
This means that the lymphoma is affecting several groups of lymph nodes or different areas of the body. In terms of stage, this is classed as stage 3 or 4 lymphoma and sometimes stage 2 lymphomas.
Advanced-stage low-grade non-Hodgkins lymphoma is difficult to cure completely. This means that it can flare up, go away with treatment, then return again. Sometimes the lymphoma needs treatment and sometimes not – but the disease is not likely to go away altogether.
The aim of treatment for people with advanced-stage low-grade non-Hodgkins lymphoma is to control the symptoms of the disease to allow a good quality of life and level of comfort – and there are many options available to achieve this goal.
Your lymphoma treatment will be chosen on the basis of your individual situation, including what type of low-grade non-Hodgkins lymphoma you have, and your overall health.
If you feel well and you have been diagnosed with low-grade non-Hodgkins lymphoma it’s quite usual not to have treatment – this is sometimes called active monitoring or, more simply, ‘watch and wait'.
However, the active treatments that may be used for lymphoma are:
You may have treatment with a single chemotherapy drug or a combination of different drugs. Steroids are usually given with chemotherapy to improve its effect.
Intensive chemotherapy with stem cell transplant
Also called high dose chemotherapy, this is an intensive chemotherapy drug treatment that can help to improve the chances of controlling your lymphoma in the long term. It uses high doses of chemotherapy followed by a stem cell transplant.
Stem cell transplant
Some people with low-grade non-Hodgkins lymphoma may be offered treatments such as stem cell transplant.
A stem cell transplant is where stem cells are injected into your vein through a drip to replace stem cells that the high dose chemotherapy has killed.
Stem cells are essential to our survival – they are embryonic blood cells in your bone marrow that develop into red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.
Having a stem cell transplant enables you to tolerate higher doses of chemotherapy, to give the drugs more chance of curing the lymphoma.
Radiotherapy may sometimes be offered to people whose low-grade non-Hodgkins lymphoma is confined to one area. This therapy is sometimes used in combination with high dose (intensive) chemotherapy treatments.
Follow up treatment
You’ll have regular check-ups following your treatment. How often and for how long depends on the kind of treatment that you had. At follow-up appointments, your consultant will ask how you’re feeling and examine you. You might also need a blood test, CT scan, ultrasound, X-rays or a combination.
Paying for your haemato-oncology treatment
Haemato-oncology costs are covered by most medical insurance policies, but please check with your insurer first.
If you are paying for your own lymphoma treatment the cost of the operation will be explained and confirmed in writing when you book the operation.
Ask the hospital for a quote beforehand, and ensure that this includes the consultants’ fees and the hospital charge for your procedure.
Want to know more?
If you’d like to read more about blood cancer, treatment or living with blood cancer, please visit cancerresearchuk.org.uk